Tag Archives: change your mind

Creating Pathways to Happiness

Like all living things, we have survival instincts.

Innately, it seems, our brain wants to hold onto negative experiences. In order to survive, we need to learn from those things that have had a negative impact and attempt not to repeat them.

This might be good for the survival of the species, yet as individuals we must not only learn, but also find a way to mentally let go of the negatives, or we won’t be able to move into a happier, more positive future.

The flip side of this is that good experiences tend to pass through our memories far too quickly — unless we are mindful of them.

Taking a moment to appreciate good things will help to cement them in our minds. This is an essential step in learning to calm your mind.

A good place to begin is to focus on the ‘small’ things that bring you happiness. We want to create a stockpile of these and the good feelings they produce, and hold them in reserve.

Perhaps your happy moments include a sunny day, a great book, or a private joke with a friend or family member.

University of California, Berkley neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson advocates the idea of replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts so that we refocus and retrain our brains. Hanson stresses the importance of being mindful of both positive and negative experiences, as both can be instructive.

His technique for changing the brain requires acknowledging — not denying or suppressing — the negative feeling, and taking time to experience the loss, the frustration, the pain.

Once the negative is fully realized and understood, which could take only a moment for small stressors or much longer for deep grief (although good therapy can accelerate this process), the next step is to find a way to minimize or let go of the negative.

Relax a little, take a deep breath, use your imagination to draw a mental circle around any harmful thoughts, as if placing them in a balloon, and then release them, letting them float off and leave. Perhaps cry a little. Tears can have a wonderful, healing, therapeutic effect, and they can be shed by the emotion of happiness as well as sadness.

After you’re able to let go of the negative, it’s time to shift your focus to something positive. Perhaps it’s a happy memory of someone you’re grieving, or remembering a frustrating project from the past that you’ve finally completed successfully.

By taking just a little step back, learning to interrupt the negative and shift the mind to something more positive, we can retrain our brains to access more happiness.

Genetics and innate impulses can be tempered with a little training and some thoughtful effort. By regularly using our mind and our brain to access more positive states, we can create fresh neural pathways and so alter the way we function and feel. To use the language of neuroscience, ‘neurons that fire together wire together.’

Our brain has an amazing capacity for learning, and it’s up to us to teach our own brain the pathways to happiness.

Peter Field is a UK registered psychotherapist and London and Birmingham hypnotherapist. He is a Member of the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Health. For more information, please visit his Birmingham hypnotherapy website.

The 6 Habits That Lead To Happiness

So often we count what is missing from our lives, focusing on what is not there.

In doing this, we create a form of “negative hallucination,” a state of mind that blinds us to so much of what is actually there — a really self-defeating way to pass our days.

By dwelling on what we lack we create feelings of deprivation and unhappiness that can eclipse the spirit and block our ability to experience the simple joy of being alive.

If we really do want to live a more fulfilled and joyful life then cultivating a sense of gratitude is a key ingredient. Gratitude for all that we have, for all that is there, brings with it a deeper appreciation of life itself.

Research has shown (1) that gratitude is an essential element in our ability to experience genuine happiness.

Change Your MInd

Not only that, but expressing gratitude can help change your mind in a positive way, and actually have a physical affect on the brain, changing it in positive ways.

Gratefulness and life satisfaction just seem to go hand in hand (2).

Here are six habits that grateful people cultivate. They are the keys to increased joy and contentment.

1. Grateful people do not expect life to give them every single thing they desire. They live with the understanding that no one can have everything they want, when they want it, and that this is okay. They are appreciative of all they have, and are less likely to envy what others have.

2. Grateful people take nothing for granted. They do their best to see the positive outcome in situations and experiences and are not afraid to work towards those outcomes. They do not take the good things in their lives for granted.

3. Grateful people work with things as they are. They do not insist that conditions be exactly right before they can be happy. Appreciative of all they have, they accept life’s shortcomings, while working on their own, and welcome joy and happiness into their lives unconditionally.

4. Grateful people realize that they cannot have the sunshine without also having the rain. They understand that no one can live in a perpetual state of happiness, accepting that difficult times will sometimes come. They have learned to respect and be grateful for life in all its diversity.

5. Grateful people cultivate flexible thinking habits. They have learned to adapt to life circumstances and can adjust their thinking to the situation. Gratitude and rigid thinking make a poor fit, and so they make allowances for other people’s perceptions and opinions.

6. Grateful people do not define themselves by their regrets. They appreciate their abilities while working to improve them, accepting responsibility for their actions while working towards their positive future. Cultivate these habits of gratitude and you really will reap some wonderful benefits.

What are you waiting for? Why not start right now!

References:

(1) Emmons, R. A. (2007). THANKS! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

(2) Watkins, P. C., Grimm, D. L., & Kolts, R. (2004). Counting your blessings: Positive memories among grateful persons. Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, Social, 23, 52-67.–

Peter Field is a UK registered psychotherapist and London and Birmingham hypnotherapist. He is a Member of the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Health. For more information, please visit his Birmingham hypnotherapy website.